On a Friday night in January, Andy Smith was doing what he does best.
Pinning his opponent.
This time, he won his match inside Cassell Coliseum, his future home starting next fall.
“I guess the energy in here, looking at the stands, how it’s presented, it’s really something else,” Smith said.
Smith committed to the Hokies after telling himself that it’s Division I or bust when it comes to wrestling in college.
“I just want to compete at the highest level,” Smith said. “I really wanna be out there.”
An ‘amazing’ talent
Virginia Tech is the next stop of a wrestling career that’s seen drastic improvement in his high school years.
“Andy is really talented,” senior teammate Ty Kwok said. “His technique and talent and wrestling ability is just amazing.”
Four years ago, Smith wrestled in the 138 pound weight class. Fast forward to his junior season, he became the state runner-up at the 220 pound division.
“When I first met him, I wrestled with him, I knew that he could be tough,” head coach Cliff Warden said. “I don’t think he knew how tough he could be until he started training a little harder and started gaining some confidence, once we got that going in the right direction, he realized he could wrestle at a national level, then he just exploded.”
After losing in the state final last February, Smith made a commitment to himself.
“I told myself, I want to be nationally ranked, I want to place at the big tournaments,” Smith said. “I want to go out and have fun my senior year.”
But at the start of his final season, Smith’s toughness was put to the test.
Smith learned that his mom was diagnosed with cancer in October.
“He did keep it quiet for a long time,” Kwok said. “It’s hard when someone so close, such a big supporter of the team, something like that happens to them. It’s been like every match she watches could be the last one she watches.”
But Smith didn’t want the attention that would come with sharing the news.
“I thought I was going to be embarrassed by it. Not embarrassed but, I didn’t want everyone looking at me being like, ‘I’m so sorry.’,” Smith said.
It wasn’t until a parent came up with an idea to put stickers on the team’s head gear that news of the diagnosis became public.
A Tribute To Cindy
The team paid tribute to Smith’s mom by etching her name, Cindy, on its head gear, incorporating the Christiansburg “C” logo.
It was a sign of solidarity for a teammate whose family’s struggle was no longer a secret.
“That’s really something,” Smith said. “I’m overly grateful for the teammates I have, the family I’m apart of, our team family, I couldn’t ask for better support. It’s just been so overwhelming and they’ve really helped us through it.”
The gesture illustrates how close the team is.
“When one of them hurt, all of them hurt. It’s sort of a unit,” Warden said. “And they understand how close Andy and his mother and family are to one another and they feel the same pain because she’s such a huge part of the program.”
And for Smith, it feels like a burden has been lifted.
“After everyone finding out, that feeling is good. It’s good to surround yourself with people like this,” Smith said.
With his team’s support, Smith remains positive. And not to mention, motivated on the mat.
“He’s a very mature teenage kid. He’s very strong,” Warden said.
“He’s got the backing of his family and of his second family — the Christiansburg wrestling family.”